It’s been seven years since Kathy Skidmore left her job as a nurse, but her desire to help people never went away.

These days, the Cincinnati, Ohio native sees cannabis activism as the best way to do that.    

Looking back on her nearly 30 years in the nursing field, Skidmore believes medical professionals tend not to think twice about prescribing powerful opioid painkillers to patients who haven’t been adequately briefed on the drugs’ potentially devastating side effects.

Skidmore is so confident in this belief because she was one of those patients herself.

While in her senior year of nursing school in 1983, Skidmore fractured part of her lower back after a fall down some stairs. She was prescribed Vicodin and Percocet for the pain. A few years later, a car accident landed Skidmore in the hospital for neck surgery - and got her hooked on prescribed morphine.  

The resultant opioid cocktail put Skidmore in a “fog.”

“My body was dependent on opioids... I hardly ever got off the couch or out of bed. I couldn’t think,” says Skidmore, who describes having “no quality of life.”

Ironically, it was Skidmore’s occasional cannabis use that forced her to stop nursing in 2010, after the hospital she worked at started testing employees for illegal substances. "Reefer madness", she says, was alive and well throughout her career.

“The negative stereotypes about cannabis [were everywhere],” she says. “It was really taboo... You couldn’t let it out because you would get fired. Now, I feel like I can’t speak out about it enough. I’m not quiet about it anymore.”

That’s because cannabis is Skidmore’s one-and-only medication these days.

After realizing she’d wasted too many years of her life dependant on drugs that were making her miserable, Skidmore packed up her things and moved to Denver, Colorado in the spring of 2014. It was there that she tried “everything [she] could get her hands on.”

“I got out there and I just started utilizing everything [cannabis]; the patches, the salves, the concentrates, the edibles. This past December, I [started taking] Rick Simpson oil and by February, I was off all opioids,” says Skidmore.

Life, says Skidmore, is “totally different now.” She’s turning 64 next week, but “feels more like 30.”

“Cannabis has been a life changer; a total life-changer... I’m up every day and I get out. I think well. I feel healthy. I feel happy,” she says. “Some days I don’t have any pain at all; other days it’s about a one or two [out of 10].”

This personal 180, says Skidmore, has inspired her to spread the good word about cannabis and “educate health professionals” about its benefits over opioids during this time of crisis.   

“As a [former] health professional, I’m just dying to let everybody know that... we need to get back to plant-based medicine,” says Skidmore.

“I am just advocating for physicians and nurses and therapists and [whoever else] to look at cannabis first before looking at anything else.

“Cannabis has been around for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. We evolved with cannabis and cannabis has evolved with us...I just want to get my story out there, because I want to help as many people as I can.”  

Read more in our 'Life After Opioids' series: